Co-owner Justin Ayars (left) with 2113 manager Manny Redoble at the bar. "We wanted to bring cosmopolitan energy from the New York City nightlife, but integrate it with the history and traditions of the region," Ayars says.Photo by Isaac Harrell
It might be fate that Liberace's godson would open a nightclub. But things easily could have taken a different turn for Justin Ayars, whose father, Bo Ayars, was Liberace's musical director, worked with Barbra Streisand and played keyboard for Elvis. After the family moved from Las Vegas to the East Coast, Justin studied political science and international relations at the College of William and Mary, then he taught history at a naval boarding school in England and practiced insurance defense litigation after earning a law degree.
While working as a judicial law clerk at Norfolk Circuit Court, Ayars met Jesse LaVancher, a former New York police officer and nightclub owner who was interested in pursuing entrepreneurial ventures. In 2009, the two paired up to run a Williamsburg-based coffee company and then, with partner Bill Fields, founded Tinkers, a Richmond woodshop that restores and repurposes antique lumber and wood furnishings.
After two years of planning and building, they opened 2113, described as a "bistro-lounge," on March 1 in a space that has been vacant since the early 1950s and was originally part of the Edgeworth tobacco company. "When we first got here, we could still get a whiff of tobacco, ever so faint," Ayars says. LaVancher, 37, handles operational management for 2113 while Ayars, 30, does more of the administrative work. "We're very like-minded individuals, but completely different personalities," Ayars says. "He's the yin, I'm the yang. We balance each other." With 2113, they've created a hybrid where customers can enjoy an elegant lunch, brunch or dinner, stop by for cocktails and appetizers, or dance the night away. In addition to music spun by DJs, they plan to feature vocal performers as well as jazz and brass bands.
The menu overseen by chef Kathleen Moore includes regional staples like crab cakes and pan-fried catfish, with some inventive touches such as the "Ants on a Log" appetizer with pimento cheese, celery and dried cranberries; and four-cheese mac-and-cheese made with walnut oil and topped with fresh walnuts. John Maher, of the pop-up restaurant spoon, promises some changes when he joins 2113 as a consulting chef in June.
In addition to the 3,400-square-foot main floor and 600-square foot patio, Ayars and LaVancher plan to add a second bar in the basement early next year and a 5,000-square-foot roof deck with a view of the downtown skyline by the summer of 2013.
"We're not trying to be something we're not, but we're trying to bring something nice to Richmond," Ayars says. "Richmond deserves a fun, clean, happy place to go."